Today’s Word from Reverend Dave Bieniek
A few months ago, I wrote a missive about one of my favorite statues of Mary. It is called the Mother of the Whole World and features Mary holding a Baby Jesus in outstretched arms, who in turn has his arms outstretched to the world. Both Mary and Jesus have Middle Eastern features on their faces and the statue is generally made out of clay and unpainted. These statues are designed and made by the Little Sisters of Jesus who I got to know when I was in the seminary in Washington, DC in 1984.
The Sisters also made a statue of the Baby Jesus that was suitable for a manger. In the larger version of this statue, Jesus has the same Middle Eastern features with a big smile on his face. His arms are outstretched to you just as if he was a little baby begging to be picked up and loved on. He wants to be carried, to go with you, and trusts you completely. (As a seminarian I was only able to afford the smaller version pictured above. I still have it on my shelf.)
I used to wonder why Jesus chose to come as a baby. After all, he was God, wasn’t he? Why didn’t he just appear as a fully grown human and begin his work as an adult? If we believe that Jesus was God from the beginning, couldn’t he have done it that way? And if we do believe it that way, I guess he could have.
But I believe Jesus came as a baby for two reasons. One was for himself, and the other reason was for us. I think that God became Incarnate as a baby so that God would truly understand what it meant to be a human. God as Jesus chose to be born as a poor, helpless baby that had to grow in a human family, under human circumstances, so that Jesus could truly understand what we are facing in our lives. As a baby, Jesus had to rely on the humans around him to protect, love, and raise him. And that is where our gift comes in.
Jesus gives himself to us, not as a God to be worshipped and adored, but as a baby to be loved, protected, and shared. Jesus did not come as an all-powerful being, but as the most helpless being, so that we might learn to love him and that we might learn to love others as well. And the magic of Christmas is that he still does!
That is what we celebrate each year at this time. Now that the carols have faded from the radio, and the trees begin to be stacked by the trash cans, we still have a little baby that needs to be nourished and loved and held gently. We have the responsibility to take Baby Jesus with us wherever we go. With his outstretched arms, he says, “Don’t leave me behind. Don’t forget to carry me with you. Don’t be afraid to love me and allow that love to spread to all of those you meet.”
In a real sense, Jesus asks that we not pack him away with the rest of the Christmas decorations. We should be taking this Jesus, this unconditionally loving, trusting, and vulnerable Jesus into our hearts and into our world, even if that world is made smaller right now due to the COVID pandemic and safety precautions.
We are encouraged as Jesus’ followers to take Baby Jesus with us into the world of our family and those in our bubble, into the world of the grocery store or doctor appointments, and even into the world of social media, and share this Baby Jesus with all those we meet.
A suggestion I have is not to pack away that Baby Jesus from your Nativity set this year. Instead, put it on a table, on your bedside stand, or somewhere you can see it on a daily basis to remind you to pick up that Baby each day, hold him close and then share him with each person you meet. It may sound like a silly suggestion, but it is what the Little Sisters of Jesus did. They had that Baby Jesus right by their front door, so whether they were going out or coming in, it reminded them to make Baby Jesus present in their world all throughout the year.
This will be my last missive for you. I have enjoyed writing, and I appreciate you reading each week. Please know that you will continue to be in my prayers and in my heart. Please stay safe and well.
Reverend Dave Bieniek
P.S. We would like to sincerely thank Reverend Dave for his weekly writings during the Pandemic. His heartfelt reflections have been a blessing to all of us.